Now that the Jeep had an interior (Because if a car doesn’t have a top, does it technically have an interior?) Anyway the top is now on, and I was on to the next item on the Jeep. It had snowed a bit once already and now they were calling for the first larger storm of the season and I didn’t have 4 wheel drive. Now I have driven plenty of cars in the snow without 4 wheel drive, but this short, narrow, and light little Jeep was a real twitchy ride in the snow. So knowing this I decided that I need 4 wheel drive for this larger storm. I pulled the Jeep half way into the lower garage (The one without doors, or lights. It only fit half way in because of all of my junk). I plugged in a droplight and had my camping headlamp on. It was dark and starting to get cold by the time I was getting started, probably thanks to a long day at work.
Rewinding a little, the first time I knew for sure that the Jeep was lacking 4 wheel drive was the day that Brandon and I decided that we were going to cross the ditch on Dakan Rd just to see if we could. After a few attempts of brute force and ignorance Brandon informed me that my front tires weren’t spinning. At this point we pulled out the rope, and come-a-long. We made it across with some clever thinking and problem solving; the ride back down can be seen on our videos page.(More finesse and fear than brute force)
Ok so back to getting the 4 wheel drive going, I had done some research about my YJ and discovered that the front passenger side axle shaft was 2 pieces. I think the idea behind it was to increase fuel mileage by reducing rotational mass. Anyway, when you shift the Jeep into 4 wheel drive a vacuum actuated connection slides a horse shoe shaped fork over a collar that locks the two axle shafts together thus producing 4 wheel drive. Anticipating that my Jeep most likely had a vacuum leak that prevented the fork from moving the collar. I pulled the vacuum actuated disconnect out of the axle and looked inside at what exactly I was dealing with, after fiddling with the parts I reached inside the axle and moved the collar into the locked position by hand. I then realized that there was nothing to keep the fork and collar in the locked position, without vacuum pressure inflating the diaphragm. I then did as I think my grandfather would have done and went up into the upper barn, and just looked around for something that might fix my problem.
At this point it was snowing and not being able to feel my fingers was actually a plus. I then had a great “field fix” (despite being in a garage) idea to keep my collar in the locked position. Zip ties, I could get a zip tie around bar that the fork slides on, keeping the fork from moving, thus keeping the collar in the locked position. I threw two zip ties on there and presto, another “This should work” moment was born. I reinstalled the vacuum actuated disconnect and the 4 wheel drive worked brilliantly. After refilling the differential fluid I called it a night feeling satisfied.
One discovery I did make was that, because the interior axle shaft was never designed to rotate at speeds beyond 40 mph it was not a balanced shaft, resulting in a very fine vibration at high speeds. I drove the Jeep with this set up for a year and a half or so before I was able to replace the two piece axle with a balanced one piece axle shaft that no longer required the vacuum disconnect, so that terrible design was no longer an issue. When I did this conversion it also required me to install an inner axle seal on the passenger side. In order to do this I had to take out the driver side axle and the gears in the differential. The vibration decreased but, as I am learning, you are never done hunting down vibrations in a YJ Jeep.
On the next episode of History on a Simple Jeep we will be talking about the ridiculous oil pressure problems that the jeep developed and the resulting repairs leading up to the engine rebuild… It might be a two-part episode.